I do not draw my water from a well. So my legs are weak and my arms flappy. The grass in my yard is lush and green and there is no path that's worn of necessity. All the paths are pleasure.
When Mom was small she watched her mother pump the water into their large kitchen sink, out on the ranch in Blackfoot, Idaho. Her mother's elbow would rise level with her shoulder, then she would lean into the metal arm, her hand pushing and pulling until the water came flowing out into the basin. Once in a while the pump would lose its prime, the mouth of the faucet gaping empty and dry. Her mother would send one of the kids out to the well house with a bucket. When they returned she poured water down the pipe of the pump, reminding the water out there at the well that it should make its way to her kitchen. She would pump and pump, the tiny hairs around her hairline curling with sweat. Once primed, she shook her head, swearing to herself that she would not let that old pump lose its prime again. My grandmother's kitchen was so well used, feeding all those children, the ranch hands, and the occasional hobo, that the pump rarely lost its prime to begin with. Usually it only happened when they had gone up into the mountains on a fishing expedition, or over to cousin Millie's while the men were up cutting ice from the river. By the time my mother was old enough to do the dishes they had modern plumbing installed.
I do not draw my water from a well. But I return to other wells, knowing that if I am not faithful, I risk losing the prime. Some trips to the figurative wells are easier than others. Some pressings of the pump more simple. When I am teaching guitar, the calluses on my left fingertips are always there. When I'm not teaching or performing, I find them peeling off after I wash the dishes. I am reminded to pick up my instrument daily, to keep that pump flowing, so I don't have to go through the re-creation of tough skin on my fingertips. I may bemoan having to prepare guitar lessons, but I never have to worry about my fingers being in good guitar playing condition.
At our house we entertain a fair amount. Gatherings of people. This requires me to clean up a bit. Otherwise my varied projects get in the way and the house goes to pot. My kids used to walk in from school and if the house was clean they would ask who was coming over. I know myself well enough to understand that the flow of people coming in and out of our house is important to the well being of our environment, and not just because it forces us to clean up. The comings and goings, the conversation, and the music bouncing against these walls have given this place a unique patina. It loses its luster when the doors do not regularly swing open. The flow of people coming in and out of our house keeps the the water coming from the well of friendship.
On Sunday mornings we make our way down the street and stream into the rock church house at the end of Summerwood Road. Streaming in together with our neighbors, we sip from holy cups, share sacred stories, and flow out together, back toward our homes, priming ourselves so that the spiritual waters don't quit flowing. A friend once told me we are all basically three weeks from church inactivity. The first week we miss for legitimate reasons; we are sick, or out of town, or having an off kind of day. Week two something else keeps us from going, and by week three it becomes comfortable to stay away. After that, it requires elbow effort to return, sweat inducing priming to get the waters flowing as they should. Knowing this, and knowing my humanness as it battles my eternalness, I accept church callings and build social relationships that make going to church multi-faceted. Then when I am not feeling particularly spiritual, I get myself there for social reasons, and when I am not feeling particularly social, I get myself there for spiritual reasons. And if all else fails, my sense of obligation gets me there to fulfill my callings. I'd like to say that the only reason I go to church is to feel the spirit, but truth be known there are other places that fill me spiritually as well. And further truth be known, sometimes church just doesn't do it for me. But that's rare, and the odds are in my favor that I will find something…even one small thing…that uplifts me at church. So I return. Regularly. Keeps the pump primed.
Last month I returned to a well. My son went with me. We dipped ourselves into Mark Stephenson's recording studio, a familiar place full of life giving water for me. It had been so long I forgot how it worked. I had to return with buckets of effort to prime the pump. But the well is full of good fresh music and it is flowing and I am excited for the projects we will be producing from that place I love.
I do not draw my thirst quenching, dish washing, skin cleansing water from a well. For that I am grateful, though I understand there are drawbacks. But there are other gifts, not of water, that require the trip, and the effort, and the thirst. For these I find myself rising from my sedentary place, moving my legs, and making my way back. Back to the familiar, the dependable, the living waters. I find myself returning to the well.